FLICKS: 2017 in Review & evolution 2018

Posted on 28 December 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Much like Aeneas fleeing the fall of Troy 5000 years ago, this film columnist is feeling a kindred spirit with this fictional character from the Aeneid written by Virgil, the Roman playwright. During the holiday season 18 years ago, the theaters would be packed with consumers viewing movies like The Green Mile, The Sixth Sense and Toy Story 2. In the past, people had to plan weeks or months in advance to purchase a ticket for a blockbuster. Even with the current box office champion, there is no need to plan that far in advance.

There were some good movies that looked great on the movie screen this year with big epic visuals. Among the standouts were Kong: Skull Island and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, to name a few. There were also strong stories like Moonlight and The Last Word that did not need to be seen on the big screen. These films were just as good on your television set at home. Thus, my major dilemma, being the longest standing film columnist in Broward County, has Flicks outlived its usefulness?

This swashbuckling journalist & information scientist still enjoys the challenge of coming up with seven paragraphs about the motion picture industry each week. Yet, with dropping box office revenue, there is no denying the shrinking interest in seeing a movie on the big screen. Entertainment spending is being spent on many alternative consumer items, like cell phones that can download movies for free with a library card.

Ninety years ago, Al Jolson brought sound to the big screen with the debut of The Jazz Singer. The doom knell for movies was sounded 60 years ago when Americans purchased black & white television sets for home entertainment and mass communication. The movie industry responded with Technicolor epics like The Searchers, Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ and Rio Bravo. The motion picture industry survived because it consistently evolves.

Prurient scandals have been part of Hollywood history since its inception, from Charlie Chaplin’s peccadillos to Harvey Weinstein’s full-blown harassment scandals. As a journalist, one can not pursue news and information about the movie industry without being sidetracked by these scandals. This writer prefers to read stories about the business side of the industry or interviews with actors who talk about their craft and character development.

These types of stories and interviews are getting harder to find in this information age filled with #FakeNews.

Next week, Flicks will present our annual Top 10 List with Honorable Mentions. As long as I keep writing this column, Flicks will always have a movie component to it. Yet, there is so much more to the world of arts, entertainment, theater and culture than just sitting in a dark room watching projected celluloid images on a big screen.

Starting with Jan. 11, 2018, Flicks will be undergoing its first step of its evolution. it is my hope that my dear readers since 1999 will grow along with me. Until then, have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve weekend.

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CLERGY CORNER: Press for the prize

Posted on 28 December 2017 by LeslieM

The approach of a new year often brings hope and anticipation for a better tomorrow. It’s a time of reflecting on the things that didn’t get done, and planning how to see the desired outcome in the future. Write the book, lose the weight, finish the degree and start the business. These are the ideas and projects that beckon or taunt us as we look toward a new year and a potentially fresh start. But without a definite plan in place and a commitment to persevere, we may find ourselves in the same position a year from now. How many times have we made resolutions in January, that were abandoned by March?

In his letter to the believers at Philippi, Paul reveals his mindset and hints at a plan of action for accomplishment. “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize” (Philippians 3:13,14 NIV). While the apostle is dealing primarily with matters of spiritual development and Christian service, his insight points to undeniable principles necessary for achieving the goals we set for ourselves.

The first step has to do with “forgetting what is behind”. Put the past in the past and stop reliving the failures or successes of years gone by. No one can safely navigate a car forward by looking in the rearview mirror. There is a danger in constantly looking back at what once was or what used to be. Life is comprised of right-now moments that demand our attention and focus. Learn what you need to know from the past and keep moving forward.

The second step involves “straining toward what is ahead.” In other words, put your prospects in perspective. What are the opportunities in front of you? Where are your strengths more needed? Where are the areas that fit your unique abilities? Invest your time and effort in those things that are within your reach, even if you must stretch a little. This step will require focus and the ability to dismiss distractions so that you can stay on course.

The third step is to press for the prize. With the goal in front of you, and determination to get it you can push forward. It may not be easy. To press means to face resistance, and there will be challenges, obstacles, and frustration that must be overcome. But the goal is in front of you and you can reach it if you try. At this stage, you can consider how far you’ve come and find the motivation to finish strong. Why get so close, only to give up after you’ve invested so much effort? Shake off discouragement, refuse to quit and press forward.

There were many memorable moments of achievement in the 2016 Olympics. One of the more daring and outrageous accomplishments came in the Women’s 400m finals. Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas was the frontrunner for much of the race but the American champion, Allyson Felix was closing in fast on the last stretch. In a desperate move to cross the finish line first, Shaunae Miller dove headlong into the tape beating Allyson Felix in a photo finish. It was an unorthodox and unconventional move that caused a lot of stir on social media, but it was allowable in the rules of track and field. Shaunae won the race because she pressed for the prize.

As we prepare to enter another year of events and experiences, position yourself for the accomplishment of your goals. Put the past in the past, put your prospects in perspective, and press for the prize. Have a happy and blessed New Year!

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Posted on 21 December 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

cinemadave.livejournal.com

When I began writing “Flicks” 18 summers ago, Star Wars: Episode I -The Phantom Menace was the most hyped movie of 1999. Unlike previous Star Wars movies which opened on Memorial Day weekend and stayed on the big screen past Labor Day weekend, Star Wars: Episode I lost momentum after the 4th of July weekend. For the next six years, two more Star Wars movies were released to a good box office, but with critical disdain. Creator George Lucas claimed the Star Wars story was over, but Disney purchased the franchise and we have seen three movies that last three holiday seasons. Star Wars: Episode VIII- The Last Jedi, is the most recent endeavor.

The Last Jedi picks up where Star Wars: Episode VII -The Force Awakens left off. The good guys — the Resistance — are under assault from the bad guys — the First Order. Hot shot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) defies General Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) orders and ignites a space battle with Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The battle is decisive for the Resistance, but with a great loss for the heroes.

Meanwhile on an abandoned planet, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found legendary hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is old, disillusioned and cantankerous. As Rey tries to persuade this war hero to help fight the bad guys, Luke feels grief over his nephew’s conversion to the dark side and the rise of the First Order. Luke’s nephew is Kylo Ren, who is the son of Princess Leia.

In terms of understanding the narrative information leading up to The Last Jedi, the pedigree between mother, son and nephew is all one needs to know to enjoy last weekend’s box office champion. Director Rian Johnson does a fine job revealing a fresh story with archetypal conflict. The lessons of war are presented with reverence, filled with clear and concise visuals. The computerized special effects enhance, but do not distract, from the fast-paced narrative drive.

Given that the director was only 3 years old when the original Star Wars (known as Episode IV: A New Hope) was released, The Last Jedi emphasizes the theme of passing the generational torch. The robots from the first six movies — R2-D2 and C-3PO — are given less screen time compared to the new prodigy, BB-8. Harrison Ford’s character is gone and we know that the late Carrie Fisher’s character will not return, so Episode IX will revolve around the conflict between those kids, Rey and Kylo Ren.

Yet, being the longest Star Wars movie on record, The Last Jedi does not cheat on entertainment. There are moments of pure Saturday matinee popcorn-eating fun that transport the ticket buyer to the thrilling days of yesterday when Flash Gordon battled Ming the Merciless. Of all the performers, Mark Hamill does a fine job balancing the serious nature of Luke Skywalker’s dilemma, with a humorous wink to the Star Wars core fanatics.

With the recent passing of my publisher David Eller, my old boss Rick Shaw and colleague Skip Sheffield, 2017 marks the end of an era. Given my generation’s 40-year history with this film franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi taps into the collective grief of our days. Yet, in its darkest moments, The Last Jedi draws from the need to be optimistic and celebrate our loved ones in this world and the next. Without meaning to, The Last Jedi says “Merry Christmas!”

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CLERGY CORNER: A performance worthy of a king

Posted on 21 December 2017 by LeslieM

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40 NRSV

I am not one to brag, but I was a part of a choir that performed for a king, King Olav V. I also had the privilege of performing for the crown prince and princess who are now the King and Queen of Norway.

My mother’s family is Norwegian and I attended a college in Minnesota, Concordia College, which was founded by my Norwegian immigrants. Because the Church of Norway is Lutheran, so is my alma mater. And there are still strong links between my college and the Kingdom of Norway. That is why, periodically, my college performs in Norway for the Norwegian royal family. And you can imagine that one may be humbled by an experience like this.

The performance for the king was simply a song we sang at the Ascension Day worship service in the Oslo Cathedral. He was a gracious old man who waved to us on his way out during the procession.

Crown Prince Harald and Princess Sonja attended a concert we performed for in a church near their residence outside of Oslo. Since then he has been crowned King Harald V. This event was far more memorable. And we were all starstruck by the fact that we were performing for a man who would be king.

The crown prince and princess sat in throne-like chairs in the center aisle right behind our conductor. They had the best seats in the house, naturally, and the others in attendance paid dearly for admission. We could see his facial expressions throughout the whole concert; and, as starstruck American kids, we paid close attention to those expressions almost as if they were the only thing that mattered.

The crown prince looked bored. It looked like he was doing us a giant favor by showing up at our concert. At times, he even looked inconvenienced. His wife smiled and was delightful, but we didn’t seem to be affecting the prince.

At intermission, we all commented on the prince’s demeanor. One of the choir members said: “Wait a minute, we are Americans. We don’t have kings. The crowd loves us. Let us sing to the crowd.”

One of our more faithful members said: “Better yet, let us give glory to God.”

Our focus shifted from the prince, who seemed bored and inconvenienced, to the actual people who came to hear the choir, the people who paid dearly to sit in the uncomfortable pews. Our focus shifted from the crown prince, who sat in front of us, to God, the true master of the house.

When I look back, I think our second half was better. I think the choir sounded better. The crowd was even more enthusiastic. And then something else happened, the prince began to smile.

It would be easy to dismiss the prince as a spoiled brat. After all, there are privileges that come with royalty. However, I give him the benefit of the doubt. I sincerely believe that a good prince understands that he is beholden to both his God and his subjects. I believe a good prince isn’t focused upon himself but upon those things that are bigger than him. And my relatives who live in Norway assure me that King Harald is a good king who truly does care for his people.

What does this have to do with Christmas? A King was born on Christmas. He wasn’t born in a palace but a stable. He wasn’t laid in a golden crib, but a manger. His birth wasn’t announced with trumpets outside of a palace, but by singing angels in the midst of shepherds. God went out of his way to shift our focus away from all of the things we associate with royalty to the very things that truly matter, God and the people God serves.

Had the Christmas story happened any differently, we could have been like a bunch of starstruck college kids caught up in tabloid hype. Rather, from the beginning, God shifted our focus to a place where it always should have been.

One of my favorite Christmas songs was written in Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941. It was called “The Carol of the Drum” and was first performed by the Trapp Family singers in 1951. (Yes, the Sound of Music family). Its title has been changed to “The Little Drummer Boy.” And when the drummer boy plays his best, baby Jesus smiles.

How do we make the King of King’s smile? Matthew 25 tells us to shift our focus. Clearly, focusing on God’s people has always been a part of the story of Jesus. If we really want to make our King smile on Christmas, let us give our best to the least. Let us focus on the poor, the needy, those who are forgotten on Christmas. If we really want to make Jesus smile, honor God and all of God’s people.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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Spirito shines on the links

Posted on 21 December 2017 by LeslieM

By Gary Curreri

At 86 years of age, Pompano Beach’s Carlo Spirito is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, like a fine wine, he seems to be getting better with age.

Earlier this year, Spirito was the 2017 Club Masters Champion for the Pompano Beach Men’s Golf Association and he followed that up by picking up his fourth career hole-in-one recently on the third hole of the Greg Norman Signature Pines Course at the Pompano Beach Municipal Golf Course.

It ran about 145-yards,” said Spirito, who captured the C Flight championship that day in the individual class play, odd holes minus ½ handicap, with a 24.5 total. “It is a tricky little hole with water on the left and the pin was in the back. I hit a 6-iron with a nice draw on the ball and it was coming in towards the hole. I saw it hit the green and roll up towards the pin, but I never saw it go in.”

The guys I was playing with said, ‘it’s in, it’s in the hole,” he continued. “I couldn’t believe it. It is always exciting when you get a hole-in-one.”

The first hole-in-one for Spirito came in 1985 at the Cape Cod Country Club in Massachusetts where he aced the Par-3, 150-yard fifth hole. The second one came in 1988 at the White Mountain Country Club in New Hampshire where he negotiated the Par-3, 5th-hole, 175-yard distance with a 5-wood. His third ace was in 2002 where he needed just one shot on the 125-yard, third hole at the Oriole Golf and Tennis Club in Margate.

Spirito was proud of winning the Master’s title at the club.

I was really excited to win the men’s championship,” Spirito said. “You play and you play, and you play, and you never expect it to happen. I just happened to have a couple of good weeks. The putts were falling and you wind up with a low score, and you end up winning. I was surprised. I never expected to do it. There are a lot of good golfers.”

Spirito said he has won tournaments throughout his career, but it was nice to win one as he approaches 90 years of age. He started playing golf at the age of 25, so six decades longer and he is still at it.

I have never won one alone,” he continued. “It was always with a foursome or a twosome or something like that.”

Since turning 86 in October, he has shot his age or better eight times.

It is very exciting because when I do it, I call my son (Steven) in Rhode Island and say, ‘guess what? I shot my age today,’” Spirito said with a laugh. “He will ask me what tees am I playing from and I say, what’s the difference?”

Spirito said the longevity on the course comes from being in good shape. He carries a 22-handicap from the senior tees at the course.

Up until they put the Pines course in about three years ago, I would walk every time I played,” said Spirito, who plays three times a week. “My son will come down next month for a week or so and we will play everyday. He is a really good golfer.”

How long does he plan to keep at it?

Until I am in the 100s or so,” Spirito said. “I like it because it is good exercise and something to do.

There is good camaraderie and it is challenging. Of course, you always have a little side bet here and there.”

I think getting a hole-in-one is always more exciting,” Spirito said. “I’ve been playing for 60 years and I only have four of them. Winning a tournament, or something like that, I have done many times…shooting my age will be exciting. The older I get the easier it will be. When I am down in the 80s like that, I feel good about it.”

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FLICKS: Lady Bird

Posted on 14 December 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

cinemadave.livejournal.com

Tis awards season in the motion picture world, a time when Hollywood will release serious flicks about important life themes. Oscar and Golden Globes often acknowledge small-budgeted independent films like Breaking Away and Brooklyn, produced by a new generation of young talent both behind and in front of the camera. Breaking Away started Dennis Quaid’s four-decade career while Brooklyn introduced Saoirse Ronan as a future competitor to Meryl Streep.

Whereas Ronan gave a mature performance with a strong transitional arc, she is unrecognizably bland in Lady Bird. Actors often portray older characters with ease, but it is virtually impossible to perform the reverse. If one did not see Brooklyn, one would think the actress portraying Lady Bird is simply another bratty actress. Ronan does the impossible.

Actually Lady Bird is Christine McPherson’s (Ronan) self-given nickname. She is a senior going to Catholic High School. Despite being a rebel without a clue, Lady Bird shares her confidences with Julie (Beanie Feldstein). The two students share the same jokes with each other about hallway gossip, the drama club and family matters.

Lady Bird does have an antagonistic relationship with her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), who works two shifts a day at a psychic hospital because her husband (writer – Tracy Letts) is unemployed. Feeling constrained by living in California, Lady Bird wishes for a more exotic life on the east coast, preferably a university in New York. This, of course, raises a bigger rift between daughter and mother.

As Blackboard Jungle was a film to be remembered for high school students in the 1950s, with Dead Poets Society marking the rites of passage for high school students in the late 1980s, Lady Bird may always be remembered by the 2018 graduates. The story is simple, but the theme is universal.

Introduced to the independent film circles with the release of Francis Ha five years ago, writer/director Greta Gerwig stays behind the camera with Lady Bird. Both films detail a self-centered female protagonist’s growth and maturity, yet with much humor.

Besides Saoirse Ronin’s fine performance, Laurie Metcalf also shines as the mother. With Gerwig’s succinct script, Metcalf creates a character who is deeply suffering, but with stubborn strength that keeps the family together with a roof over their head.

Lady Bird is a winner, which has already been given a Golden Globes nomination as Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy and Best Screenplay. Saoirse Ronin and Laurie Metcalf have also been nominated as Best Actress and Supporting Actress, respectively.

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CLERGY CORNER: Give your kids and teens what they really want this Christmas

Posted on 14 December 2017 by LeslieM

In 2015, IKEA, the Swedish ready-to-assemble furniture and home furnishings retailer, asked “Why do we insist on not giving our children the gifts they really want for Christmas?”

To answer this question, IKEA created an experiment in which children from 10 different families were asked to write two separate letters: one to Santa Claus and the other to their parents.

As expected, to Santa Claus, kids requested everything from the latest tech to a unicorn. The other letter; however, the one to their parents, kids wrote, “I want you to spend more time with me”… “that we do more experiments at home”… “I’d like it [if] you paid a little bit more attention to us”… “have dinner with us more often.” Other children asked to be tickled more, have a story read to them, or simply spend the whole day together.

By the conclusion of the experiment, the parents discovered the best they could give their children is the giving of themselves, and this lesson is every bit applicable to those parents with teens — minus the tickling.

In light of the IKEA experiment results, consider the following gift ideas that honor God while creating a memorable Christmas for your children and teens:

Gift an experience. Whether it’s a family ski trip or simply watching Elf together for the billionth time, beginning a family tradition elevates presence over presents. Stuff eventually wears out, but a positive experience gets better with each time the story is told.

Gift items that speak your child’s or teen’s love language. If this is the first you have heard of “love languages,” schedule time to read Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively. Chapman writes, “Modern technology is exposing our teens to the best and worst of all human cultures.” As such, he believes there has never been a greater need for parents to “assume their role as loving leaders in the home.” Giving gifts that speak your child’s or teen’s love language is the most effective manner in which to refill a teen’s emotional “love tank.”

Gift a better story. Dr. Tim Elmore, in his book Habitudes for Communicators: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes, shares of a father “grieving” his daughter’s choices that did not align with “any of the family’s values.” The solution came when the father realized “everyone wants to be a part of a story that is interesting and compelling” — a life that is a part of the solution to a problem. The daughter eventually, on her own accord, chose to abandon her old lifestyle when “she found a better story at home.”

Gift without strings attached. Attaching emotional strings to giving is a hidden manifestation of control; it can morph into manipulation that increases the risk of damaging the relationship between the giver and receiver by establishing an unfair burden of reciprocity upon the receiver. Mindy Crary writes in Forbes, “Some people think they’ll disappoint their children if they don’t lavish them with gifts. But I’ve found that with kids [and teens], gift satisfaction is usually very short term. And even early on, [they] intuitively know whether the gift you are giving is for them, or for you.”

Gift worshipping together. Given the business of the holidays, from visiting friends and family to the excitement of unwrapping gifts, the temptation exists to “neglect meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25). In Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, Francis Chan writes, “It’s easy to fill ourselves up with other things and then give God whatever is left,” citing Hosea 13:6, “When I fed them, they were satisfied when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot Me.” Chan asserts that “God wants our best, deserves our best, and demands our best.” Avoid setting the dangerous precedent of offering God merely “leftovers.” Gift the example of putting God first.

While your child or teen may plead that they are not able to live without the new iPhone X (or a unicorn), give them what they really want: the present of your presence.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. He loves to mentor the next generation of leaders and considers himself a fast food connoisseur. For questions or comments, connect with him on social media: @thecjwetzler.

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Highlands starts off 2-2

Posted on 07 December 2017 by LeslieM

By Gary Curreri

After opening the season with wins over Sheridan Hills and Boca Raton Christian, the Highlands Christian Academy boys’ basketball team found the going rough in its own holiday tournament.

The Knights began the regular season as it topped Sheridan Hills, 83-67, and then downed District 7-3A rival Boca Raton Christian, 53-40, in the opener of the 40th annual event that was started by former AD and basketball coach Reg Cook.

Sophomore guard Alex Villas led the team in scoring with 16 points, including going 6 for 6 from the field with 2, three-pointers in the win over the Blazers.

The Knights (2-2) dropped its final two games in the tournament, falling to the eventual tournament champion, Pine Crest, 57-44, and to King’s Academy, 57-56, in the third place game. Highlands trailed Pine Crest by 14 points and were able to draw within four before the Panthers pulled away for the win.

Playing these three games really sets the tone for our season and gives me a good indication of what our strengths and weaknesses are,” said Knights coach and Athletic Director Jim Good. “Although we ended up losing two out of the three games, I was very encouraged and pleased with our effort. Unfortunately, we found ourselves too deep in a hole versus Pine Crest and King’s trying to overcome double digits.”

Highlands and King’s are quite familiar with each other as they faced off the previous two tournaments. Highlands defeated King’s for third place last year and in double overtime the previous year for the championship game. The Knights were down 12 in the third quarter before senior point guard Sawyer Lawhon hit 3, threes to draw them close. Lawhon was named to the All-Tournament team.

We, unfortunately, did not shoot the ball well from the free throw line that night,” Good said. “I guess King’s was finally due to pick up a win against us. It’s always a great week as we host the Classic right after Thanksgiving.”

Pine Crest, the defending champion, won the title with a 72-55 victory over North Broward Prep as Brian Anderson was named tournament MVP. The Knights had won its own tournament nine times – 1978, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2009, 2010 and in 2015.

Santos Sweep helps Piranhas finish 15th in Winter Champs

Pompano Beach’s Mattheus Santos, 16, and his 15-year-old brother Raphael went 1-2 in the 15-16 boys high point standings to help the Pompano Beach Piranhas swim team to a 15th place overall finish at the 27th annual Speedo Winter Championships at Plantation Aquatic Complex recently.

Mattheus had 64 points, while Raphael added 60.50 as the pair combined to score 124.50 of the swim club’s points for the four-day meet and led the boys’ team to an 11th place finish with 219.50 points. The girls’ team finished 28th with 26 points as the program ended up with 245.50 total points.

The meet featured nearly 1,100 swimmers and more than 50 teams from the Florida Gold Coast (South Florida teams) organization, in addition to teams from out of state and international squads. Swimmers ages 9-16 were involved in the competition.

Hosted by the Plantation Swim Team, the Winter Championships is the state’s largest age group meet and one of the nation’s largest LSC (Local Swimming Committees) meets.

Other top finishes for Pompano included Emilio Barrantes, 14, who was sixth with 46 points; Summer Schulte, 14, who finished 18th in the Girls 13-14 high points with 17 points; Alex Marquez, 15, (7 points) and Shane Schulte, 16, (5 points) placed 30th and 35th, respectively, in the meet.

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FLICKS: Justice League

Posted on 07 December 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

According to box office reports, DC Comics’ Wonder Woman is the most popular comic book movie of 2017, followed by Marvel Comics Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok. But, for the most part, Marvel Comics movies have dominated the DC Comic Universe in both critical acclaim and box office.

For the most part, the Marvel Comic Book movies contain stand-alone stories. If one goes to see Black Panther next February, there is not a need to see the character’s introduction from Captain America: Civil War. However, it would enhance one’s viewing pleasure. Based on who the protagonist is, each film is uniquely different. Tony Stark’s Iron Man lives in our world, while the Guardians of the Galaxy live outside the far reaches of our solar system.

The problem with Justice League is that this DC flick looks the same as its predecessors: Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman. There are many fights, chases and explosions that were created from the fevered mind of a computer special effects specialist. There is a battle between good and evil, but the visuals are not concise enough to determine who is fighting who.

[Spoilers follow regarding Batman v Superman]. Justice League opens with a video featuring Superman (Henry Cavill) talking to a kid. Superman is asked what he likes about Planet Earth, but the video cuts out. As the credits roll, we learn that the world is grieving the death of Superman, based on the ending of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Batman (Ben Affleck) perceives a threat from outer space. He contacts Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to help him uncover the mystery of the three boxes. One box can be found in Wonder Woman’s hometown, while another box may be found under the sea in the ruins of Atlantis. While investigating the missing box of Atlantis, Batman meets Aquaman (Jason Momoa).

Kind of like Professor Xavier from the X-Men series (oops … that’s Marvel), Batman recruits two young people with mutant abilities. Cyborg/Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) is a half teen/half machine whose father (Joe Morton) tried to save his son’s life with Krypton machine scraps. Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) can run very fast, so he is called The Flash.

The character interaction is the best thing about Justice League, but unfortunately the formulaic plot and dull visuals mar emotional empathy. The account executives with Warner Brothers Studios need to fathom why their own Wonder Woman and Kong: Skull Island are just so much more fun to watch than Justice League.

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CLERGY CORNER: Two perspectives

Posted on 07 December 2017 by LeslieM

Two cowboys come upon an Indian lying on his stomach with his ear to the ground. One of the cowboys stops and says to the other, “You see that Indian?”

Yeah,” says the other cowboy.

Look,” says the first one, “he’s listening to the ground. He can hear things for miles in any direction.”

Just then, the Indian looks up and says, “Covered wagon … about two miles away. Have two horses, one brown, one white. Man, woman, child and household articles in wagon.”

Incredible!” says the cowboy to his friend. “This Indian knows how far away they are, how many horses, what color they are, who is in the wagon and what is in the wagon. Amazing!”

The Indian looks up and says, “Ran over me about a half-hour ago.”

3315 years ago, G-d asked us if we would marry him. We had an extraordinary wedding ceremony, with great special effects. We were wowed. After the wedding, He said, “I have a few things I’d like you to take care of for me so, please … I’ll be right back.”

He hasn’t been heard from since — for more than 3315 years. He has sent messengers, messages, postcards — you know, writing on the walls … but we haven’t heard a word from Him in all this time.

Imagine, a couple gets married, and the man says to his new wife, “Would you make me something to eat, please? I’ll be right back.” She begins preparing. The guy comes back 3315 years later, walks into the house, up to the table, straight to his favorite chair, sits down and tastes the soup that is on the table. The soup is cold.

What will his reaction be? If he’s a wise man, he won’t complain. Rather, he’ll think it’s a miracle that the house is still there, that his table and favorite chair are still there. He’ll be delighted to see a bowl of soup at his place. The soup is cold? Well, yes, over 3000 years, soup can get cold.

Now, we are expecting Moshiach (Messiah). If Moshiach comes now, and wants to judge, what’s he going to find? Cold soup? He will find an incredibly healthy people. After 3000 years, we are concerned about being human, which means we are concerned about our relationship with G-d.

Yes, if Moshiach comes today, he’ll find that our soup is cold. We suffer from separation anxiety. We suffer from a loss of connection to our ancestors. We suffer a loss of connection even to our immediate family. The soup is cold. The soup is very cold. But whose fault is that? And who gets the credit for the fact that there is soup altogether?

We are a miracle. All we need to do is tap into it. We are the cure, not only for ourselves, but also for the whole world. So let Moshiach come now and catch us here with our cold soup, because we have nothing to be ashamed of. We are truly incredible. When G-d decided to marry us, He knew He was getting a really good deal.

This, then, is what Chassidism taught: A person is a child of G-d. A person is a prince. A person is the holiest of the holy. A person is truly one with G-d. And even when you look at yourself in the mirror and you feel disloyal, the truth is that your ultimate loyalty remains to G-d, to truth, to holiness, to purity.

Moshiach is ready to come!

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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